This is my little Yuletide gift for all of my readers. I apologize for the fact that it's riddled with plot holes, and that I made up alot more stuff than I usually would, but this was as Christmassy as things got – I mean, I'm pretty sure Tayledras aren't Judeo-Christian. Anyways, this is just a little something for all of you, whether you celebrate Christmas, Yule, Hannukah, Kwanza, Festivus or the Coming of the Spagetti Monster. Have a very happy whatever holiday you like, thank you for all the support this year, and I hope you get everything you wished for.
Moondance slid gracefully down the snowy embankment, not even stumbling as he reached the bottom. He gave Starwind an expectant look. The older Adept stared into the gray sky over the thick cowl neck of his hood that was there to protect his face from the wind.
"You feel them too, ashke?"
Starwind gave a small, almost imperceptable nod. "Through this next copse, I believe. They are far too close to the village," he glanced in the direction of the chimney smoke rising over a nearby hill.
"They are only babies," Moondance said, stepping up to put his hand on Starwind's shoulder. "I did not know they were so young. We cannot possibly hurt them."
"Aye, but there are only two. We should be able to subdue them easily, then we will gate them out into the Pelagirs, as far as we can go."
Moondance sent his bonded a mental image of the cave-gate by a tall cliff, very far North. Starwind sent back wordless assent.
:Let us send the birds:
Asheena was already on the wing, wheeling high above them, and Moondance sent Keshana up after him. The birds were nearly invisible against the sky. Moondance gasped as he slipped into rapport, the earth suddenly being whipped out from under him with dizzying speed, each detail of the ground falcon's-eye sharp.
He saw the two young colddrakes, probably no more than yearlings, curled up in depressions in the snow that they had dug with their own claws. It was a usual action for a colddrake away from its cave.
Pulling back into himself, Moondance found Starwind still glassy-eyed in rapport, and tugged at his mind in fond irritation. Starwind blinked at him and raised an eyebrow, and the younger Adept could not help but smile. Starwind looked particularly magnificent in his white and dove gray winter garb, the golden tone of his skin brought out by such a lack of color.
"I cannot help but wonder if perhaps this is the due of some young mage in the village, one naieve and unskillful enough to have little awareness of their actions." Starwind said, gazing off towards the rising smoke again. "Or else a particularly inept minor sorcerer. One is unfortunate, the other irritating and possibly dangerous."
Moondance sighed. "There are no favorable outcomes. I suggest that we simply look after the yearlings, and hold off an inquisition unless something similar happens again. There is no need to frighten townsfolk just yet."
After a moment of thought, Starwind nodded. "Very well. I would prefer not to disturb this peaceful night."
The decision to begin trapsing through the copse of trees was simultaneous, though neither of them ever voiced it. Moondance followed Starwind's nearly silent footsteps; dusk was coming on fast, and the older Adept had always had better night vision. His white leather boots sunk into the snow, his breeches already wet past the knees. Moondance knew his bonded must be starting to feel the seeping cold, as he was. Tayledras may be resistant to the cold, but they were not entirely impervious to it.
The colddrakes' silver scales glittered even in the dim light, their brilliance making the surrounding snow look dull. Both animals were soundly asleep, which suited Moondance just fine. He and Starwind were both perfectly capable of tranquilizing the colddrakes, but would need to touch them to do so. Asheena and Keshana were waiting for their Tayledras bondmates on a nearby branch, ready to help if a battle ensued.
Sharing a single look, Starwind and Moondance seperated, each creeping towards one of the beasts. Moondance found himself holding his breath. He was not afraid, but he really, really didn't want to wake one of the colddrakes up. It would make a relatively simple job considerably harder.
His magic was long ready as he slid his hand over the colddrake's cool scales, the beast not having time to wake before it was pushed back down into unconciousness. He knew through their link that Starwind had also succeeded, far before he caught site of his bonded stepping out of the hole in the snow.
If Moondance did not know Starwind so well, he would not have seen the little shiver that ran through the man's body. He was feeling the cold.
:You are shivering, ashke.: Starwind Sent, his Mindvoice sounding rather amused.
:Hush. You are also.:
:Certainly I am. The temperature is obscene.:
Moondance grinned at him. "Shall I make the gate's frame, or would you rather?"
"Oh, but you are so good at it. Why would I want to?" Starwind teased. "I will have to cast the gate. The only node in this area is dry, and after the encounter with that foolish group of bandits on our way here, I do not think you have enough in you to gate just now."
Moondance shook his head, walking back the few paces to the copse and busying himself finding two saplings that could bend and touch each other. "Not quite, nay, and that leaves us with a dilemma. If we gate these colddrakes up into the wild parts of the Pelagirs, you will not have the energy to gate us back to k'Treva."
Starwind gave him an odd look. "I will once I reabsorb the power I use in making the first is not as though we must leave it open."
Moondance shook his head again with a small smile, bending his chosen saplings and lashing them together with a strong piece of leather. "I simply will not allow you to reabsorb such a large volume of energy so quickly just now. Not when it was only two day ago that you so foolishly burned your channels, ashke."
Starwind glowered at him. "I do know my own limits."
Moondance laughed, a bright and cheerful sound that carried in the empty, snowy night. "Sometimes, I really and truly doubt that. However, I happen to know that you just like to push them." He released the saplings, smiling when they did not whip back upright.
Sighing, Starwind came up behind him. "Very well. We will be temporarily stranded, then, as we cannot well leave without completing our task."
"I have no doubts that we can keep them unconcious until morning, when we would return... but I do not like to take the chance that one of the townspeople could happen upon them. It is slightly cold, aye, but I believe we are safe here. As much as I would like to spend the night in our own warm and comfortable bed, it does not seem to be an option." Moondance crossed his arms over his chest and looked at Starwind, almost challenging him to disagree with this logic.
Starwind did not. He sighed again and pinched the bridge of his nose, failing to hide another small shiver. "I believe you are correct. I will open the gate to the Northern Pelagirs."
Obediantly stepping back, Moondance put a hand on Starwind's shoulder again to steady him. Gating took so much energy that completing one brought on a spell of intense dizziness and instant exhaustion. He watched his bonded's magic spill out and begin to form the gate with something very close to boredom – what would be awe-inspiring to the vast majority of mages had become simple routine over the decades.
Getting the colddrakes through the gate was a simple matter of Moondance controlling their movements, in effect making them sleepwalk. The task was exceedingly routine. Moondance watched as the tips of the colddrake's tails disappeared through the Gate. He was sure he would have to remind Starwind to dissipate the power instead of bringing it back into himself, but to his pleasure his bonded heeded his advice. Moondance supported him when he sagged a little, whispering into his ear, "Take some of mine, ashke." He pushed approximately half of his remaining strength into Starwind before he could refuse.
Though now they were both tired, within the hour they had a small fire lit, and their own hollow dug into the snow to shelter them from the wind. Moondance could hear Starwind's mental grumbling about the accommedations, and it made him smile. One night in the cold wasn't about to kill them.
Moondance had felt safe about the fire. Doubtless there were men from the village out hunting tonight; no one was going to come and investigate a little smoke.
Starwind spread his cloak out in their little hollow of snow. "Come, ashke," he said, resignation in his voice. "We must surely sleep close for warmth."
Giving him a mock-pout, Moondance said, "you make it sound as though you would not want to otherwise."
"On the contrary, I would like nothing better." Starwind perched on his cloak, but quickly got up again, tilting his head. "Do you hear that?"
"Hmn?" Moondance listened for a second, ignoring the crackling of the fire. He could hear faint cheers and music, presumably coming from the nearby village. "Aye. It rather sounds like a celebration."
Starwind climbed the bank of snow and perched atop it, obviously curious. "Ah, our Winter Solstice has just passed. I believe it is Yuletide in Valdemar."
Moondance laughed, scrambling up after him. "How could I forget? We certainly celebrated it in my village when I was young." There was a slight pang of sadness deep within him when he said it. He could remember dried oranges and berries on strings, singing songs around a big tree in the yard. It was the sort of memory that always made him miss his parents.
Starwind, able as always to feel his melancholy, touched his hand.
"But I prefer by far to celebrate the Solstice with you," Moondance said softly, more to reassure his bonded than himself.
Starwind did not reply, but he did smile.
They were lighting firecrackers in the village now, to great cheers and whoops. Tall bonfires burned brightly, so much so that it threw Starwind's face into a stark contrast even from such a distance.
Moondance smiled as well, feeling warm inside despite the frigid winter air. Really, it was being with Starwind he preferred – nothing to do with the Solstice at all.